“There is not a French culture, there is a culture in France and it is diverse.”
That’s what Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate favored to be the next President of France, said at a rally in Lyon the other day. Both the extreme right and the extreme left in France hate globalization and its effects, including the dilution of what they think being “French” entails, so the centrist position amounts to “there is no “French'”.
I think we all understand that to be a meaningless slogan designed to garner votes by appealing to recent immigrants, those who would prefer not to be labelled “racist”, or those who want to send a message to Marine Le Pen by rejecting her position that there is a “French culture” and that she’ll decide who’s in and who’s not.
Either way, tomorrow France will have a new President with no prior experience and no base of support in government. As the NYT puts it,
Neither has ever held national elected office. Each lacks any real base of support in Parliament and will be trying to build one from the ground up. The president of France is powerful only if he or she has a majority in Parliament to help push through his or her party’s program.
There are a lot of similarities between this election and our recent election, most disturbingly the revelation last night of massive Russian hacking of Macron organization emails, apparently with the goal of aiding Le Pen and sowing doubt about the legitimacy of the whole electoral process.
You can also point to a lot of similarities between Le Pen’s candidacy and Trump’s in terms of what she’s been saying and who she appeals to. Maybe she’ll be a surprise winner like Trump, and maybe she’ll have trouble implementing her ideas without more support, like Trump. Unlike Trump, who doesn’t actually believe in anything except himself, she does seem to be a “true believer”. I’m not really sure which is scarier.
And, as with our election, many voters are voting not for one candidate but against the other.
Another thing that is similar is the disaffection of many younger voters. This quote reminds me of one I highlighted in this early blog entry about Bernie voters:
“I didn’t know about the (email) leaks but now that I know about it, it won’t change my vote,” said Audrey Payet, a 33-year-old day care worker, in central Paris. She said she planned on abstaining because she did not want to choose between “a racist party and a banker party.”
Good thinking, Aubrey. You shall have the government you deserve, just like the rest of us.